The September newsletter contains information about cases to watch (Napoleon Beazley, Calvin Burdine, Max Soffar, and Andrea Pia Yates) as well as a speaking schedule for Sister Helen Prejean in Texas.
September 23, 2001
Dear Moratorium Supporters,
We apologize that our newsletter is behind schedule this month. Like all Americans, we have recently been given to shock and mourning. But the need to stop executions in Texas is too important to for us to stop working. We also believe that now it is more important than ever to celebrate our democracy by pursuing reforms that will make it better, more humane, and more just.
Since our last letter, in August, there have been several positive steps toward stopping executions in Texas. First, the plans for the Second Annual March for a Moratorium are rapidly progressing; people from all over Texas and beyond have said they plan to come (more on that at the bottom). Second, recent studies show that in Texas, and nationwide, the pace of executions is slowing. Texas had 40 executions in 2000. This year, it has had 13. Only three more are scheduled. This promising development comes just as two controversial Texas executions were stopped by the courts and civil rights groups are rallying to keep Andrea Yates off death row.
CASES TO WATCH:
-On August 15, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution to Napoleon Beazley in order to consider whether his previous legal counsel had been effective. Napoleon, who is on death row for the Tyler murder of John Luttig, has been the subject of an international letter writing campaign because he was a juvenile at the time of his crime and his trial appears to have been marred by racism and bias. Thorough information on his case is available from the American Bar Association (http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/beazley.html). Please follow their instructions on writing letters to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. If Napoleon’s stay is lifted, the Board will be the last hope for stopping his execution.
-Calvin Burdine, a death row inmate convicted in one Texas’ infamous sleeping lawyer cases, will get a new trial. The Fifth Circuit Court blocked his execution in late August. They concluded that unconscious counsel equates to no counsel at all. We await word of a trial date.
-September 20 the Fifth Circuit Court hears oral arguments concerning the conviction of Max Soffar, who has been on Texas death row since 1981. Max’s was initially represented by the same attorney as Burdine (Joe Cannon). What is worse, there are serious doubts about his guilt. Last December the Fifth Circuit threw out Max’s 1981 conviction and death sentence but the state has since managed to convince the court to hear arguments en banc. Max’s case, involving a poor legal representation and a dubious confession, is another perfect example of what with wrong with application of the death penalty in Texas. It is one we need to continue watching.
-Looking ahead to another highly controversial case, Texas Moratorium Network has joined with the ACLU, the National Organization for Women, and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in support of the Andrea Pia Yates Support Coalition. Harris County Prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty against Andrea Yates for the murders of her five children. The Coalition believes that the death penalty is wholly inappropriate for her because she committed her crime while suffering from postpartum psychosis.
Sister Helen will be speaking in Texas at the following times and locations:
Dioceses of Galveston – Houston
Location: Dioceses of Galveston – Houston
1700 San Jacinto
Houston, TX 77001
Contact: Robert Scamardo (Tel: 713-659-5461; Fax: 713-759-9151)
St. Mary’s Catholic Center
College Station, Texas
Location: St. Mary’s Catholic Center
603 Church Ave.
College Station , TX 77840
Contact: 979-846-5717 ext. 102
Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, Inc. (Red Mass)
Location: Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, Inc. (Red Mass)
801 Laurel St.
Beaumont, TX 77840
Contact: Richard Clarkson (409-838-1000)
MARCH FOR A MORATORIUM UPDATE:
The Second Annual March for a Moratorium is shaping up to be a huge success. On Saturday, October 27, moratorium supporters from all over Texas and beyond will gather in Austin at Republic Park (5th and Guadalupe) at 1 PM. We will march to the Capitol at 2PM. At 3PM will hear speakers on the steps of the Capitol. Committed speakers include State Representative Harold Dutton, Jr., author of House Bill 720 (to enact a moratorium), Deborah Bell, president of Texas National Organization for Women, Will Harell, executive directive of Texas ACLU, and exonerated former Texas death row inmate Kerry Cook.
Word about the march is traveling fast. We have heard from marchers coming from such diverse places as El Paso, Boston, and Washington, D.C. By the end of October, e-mail and print announcements should have reached nearly twenty thousand Texans.
More information, including contact information for travel coordinators, will posted to www.texasmoratorium.org. For the moment, Annette Spanhel (Aspanhel@yahoo.com) is offering camping space on her ranch in Dripping Springs (45 minutes from Austin) for students or anyone who needs to travel to the march on a tight budget.
Please join us in making this the biggest moratorium march Texas has ever seen.
Texas Moratorium Network